Nurturing the Emotional and Spiritual Base of our Communities.


Common (or English) Bluebell,  Hyacinthoides non-scripta.

Another day, another grim story.  One of the biggest waste disposal firms in the U.K is fitting cameras to its trucks because so many rough sleepers are sheltering in refuse bins.  They found 93 people sleeping amongst the rubbish last year.  Since their machinery couldn’t differentiate between cardboard, wood, and human flesh, this is an extremely dangerous place to seek refuge.

Who knows how many people have taken their own lives because of an ever more mean and abusive disability and unemployment benefits system?  Thousands end up in police cells because there are no crisis services where they live.  Women’s aid refuges are being closed (see here).   Over a million people are reliant on food banks. Some 50,000 social housing tennants were evicted and moved out of their London Borough over the past three years because of welfare cuts and the bedroom tax (see here).  Nearly 700,000 people are now on a zero-hours contract in their main job.

If you care about social justice, these (and many other equally pressing) issues will be all too familiar.  We’re still reeling from a General Election on May 7th that gave the Tories another five years.  Labour failed to make the case that austerity has been bad for the economy as well as for those impoverished, harrassed, and traumatised, by punitive social policies.  They even exploited a groundswell of xenophobia by producing a red souvenir “Controls on Immigration” mug -at a time when more than 1,700 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea attempting to reach Europe in the months up to April 2015 (see here).

Global concerns, and ecological issues barely registered.  I don’t want to re-run a party political discussion here, but its not just the Labour Party that needs to reflect on what has just happened.

Blubells and Ransomes (Wild Garlic) in a Pennine Wood, May 2015.

Blubells and Ramsons (Wild Garlic) in a Pennine Wood, May 2015.

The spring flowers seem to have been unusually vibrant this year.  Perhaps my ageing heart is more open to them, but the need to protect other-than-human nature from those who see the world in terms of economic resources, private property, and status symbols, feels ever more urgent.  As does the need to nurture what we might think of as the emotional and/or spiritual base of our communities, without which alternative green/left politics will surely succumb to the pandemic of alienation generated by whatever we call the toxic mix of patriarchal culture, modernist technoscience, corporate capitalism, and transcendent religion.

As I walked through the woods I couldn’t help thinking about the threat posed to the ‘English’ bluebell, hyacinthoides non-scripta, from hybridisation (with both the much paler, more fleshy leaved and upright, Spanish Bluebell, hyacinthoides hispanica, and the resulting fertile hybrid, hyacinthoides hispanica x non-scripta). The species is also threatened by illegal picking and trampling, and by climate change (it will lose the ‘early advantage’ from storing energy in bulb form as temperature dependent species grow earlier in the year).

There have been patriotic appropriations of this wonderful plant.  A late Victorian source claimed that bluebells blossomed on St George’s Day and that their flowers were as blue as the ocean over which Britannia ruled.(1)  But since perhaps as much as a half the global population of the species is found in the U.K there’s a reasonable case to protect its integrity, hopefully without resorting to xenophobic language about alien invaders.

According to Plant Life the bluebell (a.k.a Fairy Flower or Wood Bell) was once thought to ring out to summon fairies to their gatherings.  Anyone who heard a bluebell ring would soon die.  I’m not sure about that, but its not hard to see why carpets of bluebells were associated with enchantment.

B.T 19/5/15.


Margaret Baker, Discovering the Folklore of Plants, Shire Classics, 1969/2013.


4 thoughts on “Nurturing the Emotional and Spiritual Base of our Communities.

  1. Thank you for this post; it’s good to see, as an American, what the situation is like for people of consciousness across the Pond. Really, our situations are not dissimilar at all, and I definitely share your sense of urgency in ecological matters, especially now that my President has just recently officially given the green light to Royal Dutch Shell Inc. to commence drilling for oil in the Arctic. The so-called two-party political system in the U.S. is a great con game, one meant to bamboozle the masses, as there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats, both of whom are beholden to their corporate masters and criminal bankster cabals of Wall Street. Meanwhile, we’re driving 150-250 extinctions of plants and animals A DAY–and those are conservative estimates. So what does one do, especially when one sees one’s peers falling into the pits of either despair or apathy? We ring the alarm bell even louder. We call upon our Gods, our Powers, our ancestors, and our helping spirits to aid us and birth us through this tumultuous time. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Starhawk when she came to speak at Northwestern University just north of Chicago; she delivered a lecture entitled “The Goddesses of the End Times.” The ritual that followed her illuminating (and depressing) talk had us all locked arm-in-arm, snaking our way out of a spiral dance as we sang a tune familiar to the Reclaiming Tradition of Witchcraft, and I hold those words dear to my heart as a mantra for these days of assault on the environment and egregious social injustice:

    We are the rising sun
    We are the change
    We are the ones that we’ve been waiting for
    And we are

  2. Much appreciated Katakhanas. Folk that I know came to different conclusions about the election here. At one point it looked as though a labour led coalition with the anti-austerity Scottish and Welsh Nationalists and Greens (who got 1 M.P again!) might be possible. That would certainly have made a difference in terms of social justice. As things stand I think we’re in for a bumpy ride over the next few years.

  3. Yes, these times are looking more and more difficult with this government in control, particularly with the talk of immigration control and approaching abolition of the human rights act, giving the government even more excuse to treat vulnerable people as less than human.

    I’d agree it’s very difficult not to ‘succumb to the pandemic of alienation’ at this moment and give in to despair or go on the attack. Nurturing does seem to be the best option. And I’m also feeling the enchantment of the bluebells very intensely this year.

if you would like to respond

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s